The Author A. E. Housman

A Shropshire Lad - XLII - The Merry Guide


The Merry Guide was published in Housman's collection of 63 poems in A Shropshire Lad (1896). Housman self-published the book after being turned down by several publishers. Themes tend to focus on unrequited love, pastoral beauty, fleeting youth, grief, death, and patriotism.
    Once in the wind of morning
    I ranged the thymy wold;
    The world-wide air was azure
    And all the brooks ran gold.

    There through the dews beside me
    Behold a youth that trod,
    With feathered cap on forehead,
    And poised a golden rod.

    With mien to match the morning
    And gay delightful guise
    And friendly brows and laughter
    He looked me in the eyes.

    Oh whence, I asked, and whither?
    He smiled and would not say,
    And looked at me and beckoned
    And laughed and led the way.

    And with kind looks and laughter
    And nought to say beside
    We two went on together,
    I and my happy guide.

    Across the glittering pastures
    And empty upland still
    And solitude of shepherds
    High in the folded hill,

    By hanging woods and hamlets
    That gaze through orchards down
    On many a windmill turning
    And far-discovered town,

    With gay regards of promise
    And sure unslackened stride
    And smiles and nothing spoken
    Led on my merry guide.

    By blowing realms of woodland
    With sunstruck vanes afield
    And cloud-led shadows sailing
    About the windy weald,

    By valley-guarded granges
    And silver waters wide,
    Content at heart I followed
    With my delightful guide.

    And like the cloudy shadows
    Across the country blown
    We two face on for ever,
    But not we two alone.

    With the great gale we journey
    That breathes from gardens thinned,
    Borne in the drift of blossoms
    Whose petals throng the wind;

    Buoyed on the heaven-heard whisper
    Of dancing leaflets whirled
    From all the woods that autumn
    Bereaves in all the world.

    And midst the fluttering legion
    Of all that ever died
    I follow, and before us
    Goes the delightful guide,

    With lips that brim with laughter
    But never once respond,
    And feet that fly on feathers,
    And serpent-circled wand.


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